Tracing buried streams and attuning to uprisings of relation

Several strands of research are underway on the Duwamish. F.R.E.S.H. Water Relations Lab student Cori Currier’s 2019 masters thesis explored social-ecological dimensions of “living shoreline” salmon habitat restoration projects in the lower Duwamish River, which are also used by local residents for community gatherings, fishing, and contemplation. She and Charlotte Dohrn also monitored experimental floating wetlands designed to provide habitat for outmigrating salmon, under the guidance of the Green Futures Lab. Samantha Klein, James Lee, and George Thomas, Jr. continued this work through a collaborative capstone project to evaluate policy, ecological, and social implications of different restoration strategies in the lower Duwamish.

The lab is also beginning a collaboration with a Duwamish Tribe-led coalition to connect trails between the Duwamish Longhouse and Puget Creek’s headwaters. Cleo Woelfle-Erskine sits on the Executive Steering Committee of a scoping project. Read more about that work at the Duwamish Valley Research Coordination Network page.


Cruising with scientists and artists in various wilds

Cleo Woelfle-Erskine and July Hazard are pursuing ecopoetics research using queer field practices we developed in our series of Ecopoetics Along Shorelines field courses at UW Seattle, and at short workshops for the Simpson Center for the Humanities, the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program, and the Henry Art Gallery. Cleo’s work in progress, With and For the Multitude: Cruising a Waterfront with José Esteban Muñoz is the final chapter of Underflows: Queering Rivers, Transfiguring Ecology.

During the 2020 pandemic, Cleo in collaboration with the Water Underground are exploring the queer fields of quarantine spaces. Contribute to this project here.


Grounding river restoration in Indigenous visions of justice and land-based livelihoods

In 2019 the Karuk Tribe’s Píkyav Field Institute and Cleo Woelfle-Erskine co-facilitated a joint field course for UW and Karuk students, “Ecocultural Restoration and Salmon Science in the Klamath Basin.” Participants (including several FRESH Lab members) traveled up the Mid-Klamath and into the Quartz and Scott Valleys, learning about how Tribes and NGOs are working to recover salmon, using fire and bulldozers, collaborating with beavers, and mobilizing legal and policy strategies to keep streams cool and flowing.

This trip generated three collaborative projects. With Karuk DNR and the Mid-Klamath Watershed Council, SMEA capstone students evaluated dissolved oxygen and temperature patterns in off-channel ponds and found that coho salmon move into ponds over summer, and thrive there. With the Scott River Watershed Council (SRWC) and Quartz Valley Indian Community (QVIC), they evaluated potential restoration sites on three Scott River tributaries, and analyzed how climate change and beaver recovery could affect stream temperatures. They also produced several outreach documents that SRWC is using in their work with landowners to improve stream habitats. Jenny Liou is building on the QVIC collaboration through a study of groundwater levels and historic stream patterns on Shackleford Creek.

On the Mid-Klamath, Lisa Hillman (Karuk), Cleo Woelfle Erskine, July Hazard, and FRESH Lab PhD student Kim Yazzie (Navajo) have proposed a place-centered process of planning by Indigenous knowledge holders and youth at Tishánik, and important ceremonial, fishing, and harvesting site. This project will situate the forthcoming Klamath dam removals within a long trajectory of Indigenous-led restoration from settler-colonial damage, and convene field workshops with Karuk youth, elders, and scientists, making maps and narratives that flesh out a conceptual river model of justice. Our collaborative process and ecocultural analysis will feed into our future restoration planning work, and help recover salmon and sustain Karuk basketry harvest and ceremonial use. The Karuk title of our project, Peeshkêesh Yáv Umúsaheesh, translates as “the river will look good”; this “looking good” goes far below the surface to include function, connection, and ceremonial renewal.